By Carrie Click
There’s a passage in “The Choice: Embrace the Possible,” the international bestselling memoir by Dr. Edith Eva Eger, Holocaust survivor and esteemed psychologist. Eger is counseling a 14-year-old juvenile delinquent. The boy tells her, “America needs to be white again.” He says, in the most derogatory language possible, that he wants to kill all Jewish, Asian, Latino and African American people.
Eger internally recoils, then pauses. She turns inside to look for the bigot in herself as she sees the bigot in front of her. Then she says to him, “Tell me more.”
Listening – and not just hearing but really listening – is just one of the messages Eger writes about in her book, which is Colorado Mountain College’s Common Reader selection this year.
Common Reader author’s talks Oct. 9, 10
Every year, the college’s students, faculty and staff vote on a book to read together. The general public is encouraged to participate in this “group read,” and the author is invited to come to different CMC campuses or community locations to give talks to the public and students.
But this year is special for several different reasons. The author is an extraordinary person who has used her own extraordinary life to help others. And to accommodate such an extraordinary author, the college is having just two readings, in larger facilities, and livestreaming the talk at Spring Valley so anyone with a computer or smart phone can view and listen.
“We are so honored that Dr. Eger is speaking at our inaugural event at the new Outdoor Leadership Center & Field House at Spring Valley,” said Dr. Heather Exby, CMC vice president and campus dean at Spring Valley and Glenwood Springs. “It seems fitting that our first event in the Field House is academic, unites the campus with the community, and supports inclusion, forgiveness and courage.”
Eger’s book received worldwide praise, from Desmond Tutu to Sheryl Sandberg to Oprah Winfrey, who said, “I’ll be forever changed by her story.” It tells the story of Eger’s journey from the horrors of the Holocaust to her immigration to the United States. Here she learned English, got her doctorate and became a renowned psychologist, author and speaker, guiding people to look inside themselves to create meaningful lives.
Eger will give author’s talks on Oct. 9 at Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs and on Oct. 10 at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards, at 7 p.m. each evening. The talks are free, and the Oct. 9 presentation will be livestreamed online (see information, below).
Ninety years old when “The Choice” was published, Eger was born Sept. 29, 1927, in Hungary and is one of a dwindling number of Holocaust survivors alive today.
She was a teenager in 1944 during World War II when Nazi soldiers broke into the home she shared with her sister Magda and their parents. Loaded into cattle cars, they had no idea where they were going. Ultimately, they were going to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.
On the dark, freezing-cold train one night, Eger’s mother said to her, “Just remember, no one can take away from you what you’ve put in your mind.” After the family arrived at the notorious Auschwitz, the Nazis killed both of Eger’s parents in the gas chambers.
At the camp, Eger developed an indomitable inner strength as she experienced firsthand the terrors of Hitler’s totalitarian regime. Years later, she has insights into how to prevent such atrocities from occurring.
“You must organize. You must speak up,” she said, in a phone interview from her home in California. “I want children to go to school, not to learn what to think but how to think. We need to pay attention to what behavior we’re reinforcing.”
At its core, “The Choice” shows how each person, no matter the circumstances, has a choice about their lives.
“To be passive is to let others decide for you,” she said. “To be aggressive is to decide for others. To be assertive is to decide for yourself.”
Although there is bad in the world, Eger believes good prevails. “Of course,” she said, “more people choose goodness than evil.”
She also doesn’t blame God for bad things that happen.
“God did not kill my parents, people did,” she said. “Life is hard. There are no guarantees. Life is a series of probabilities. I don’t want you to hear my story and say, ‘My own suffering is less significant.’ I want you to hear my story and say, ‘If she can do it, then so can I!’”
Dr. Edith Eger’s author’s talks
Colorado Mountain College’s Common Reader presents ‘The Choice: Embrace the Possible’
Oct. 9, 7 p.m.: Outdoor Leadership Center & Field House, Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs, 3000 County Road 114. Note: This will be the inaugural public event at the college’s new Outdoor Leadership Center & Field House at Spring Valley.
Oct. 10, 7 p.m.: Battle Mountain High School, 0151 Miller Ranch Road, Edwards
Both talks are free. The Spring Valley talk on Oct. 9 will be livestreamed. To watch the livestream on a computer or smart phone go to CMC’s Common Reader webpage. There’s a button on the lower left side of the page that says “Live Stream the Talk.” Click on this button just before the event at 7 p.m. Oct. 9, and the livestream will begin. Check with your local campus for Common Reader events, including livestream viewing. Books are available at area bookstores and libraries and online. You can also visit Dr. Eger’s website to learn more about the book and author.
Colorado Mountain College Leadville will livestream Dr. Eger’s talk at 7 p.m. on Oct. 9, in Room 401 of the Climax Molybdenum Leadership Center on campus, 902 S. Highway 24. For information about the campus’s Friday evening International Film Series on related themes, contact Kelli McCall. The films will run at 6 p.m. Fridays from Oct. 4 through Nov. 1. The cost for the series is $10.
Colorado Mountain College Breckenridge will livestream Dr. Eger’s talk at 7 p.m. on Oct. 9 at the Eileen & Paul Finkel Auditorium, CMC Breckenridge, 107 Denison Placer Road.
Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs will livestream Dr. Eger’s talk at 7 p.m. on Oct. 9 at the Steamboat Springs campus library, CMC Steamboat Springs, 1275 Crawford Ave.
The Garfield County Libraries will livestream Dr. Eger’s talk at 7 p.m. on Oct. 9, at branch libraries in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute.